Midsummer Magic at Downpatrick Head

The Irish summer is infamous for long spells of cloudy, damp weather and this summer has been no exception. It's been cold and windy as well, with few periods of settled weather. Yet the one feature of Irish summertime that isn't weather dependant is the long, long evenings, when daylight stretches out until 10pm and sunset itself seems to last for hours.

Downpatrick Head Sea Cave

We're especially blessed up here on the coast of Sligo and Mayo, where the sea looks north and on some midsummer nights the horizon is never dark. There are many photo locations that require the extraordinary track of the midsummer sun to throw warm, direct light into all sorts of north-facing nooks and crannies. So on those evenings when there are breaks in the cloud, it's time to go looking for spots that only shine for a few evenings each year.

One such location is Downpatrick Head in County Mayo. This spectacular headland is a well-known local landmark, made famous by the crumbling sea-stack of Dun Briste. At low tide it is possible to scramble down onto a series of ledges that run around the base of the cliffs and into a magnificent cave that looks north right onto Dun Briste. The remote location and precarious cliffs mean extreme caution is required to make the trip however, and it should be noted that this is an extremely dangerous place in any significant swell.

On a midsummer evening, the warm light of the setting sun comes right into the cave and bounces off the right-hand wall. The sandstone rock, already a reddish hue, readily glows. The image above was shot on July 11th, using a Canon 5d mk2 and a 17-40mm lens set close to the 17mm mark. The final image was created using a blend of two different exposures; one for the highlights in the sky and one for the cave.

Sea Anemones

This cave itself has an intimidating but magical feel. All around the floor of the cavern are shallow tidal pools only a few inches deep, populated by the most amazing range of sea anemones I've ever come across. The image above was shot on a Canon 5d mk2 with a 24-105mm lens set at 105mm. The light was very low in the cave so the exposure was 4 seconds at F5.6 and ISO200.